Aliveness Project Goes Mobile To Tackle Opioid Epidemic
A Twin Cities nonprofit is doing what it can to help combat the state’s opioid crisis. The Aliveness Project uses a van to distribute free medication to people to help save others experiencing an overdose.
“Opioids, in particular fentanyl, are everywhere these days,” said Jay Orne, harm reduction coordinator for The Aliveness Project.
Orne said fentanyl is the driving force behind the epidemic.
“There’s no heroin on the street anymore, it’s all fentanyl,” he said. “Fentanyl is so much stronger than heroin or other opioids that it only takes a little bit more, you only have to make one mistake in order to overdose.”
The Aliveness Project van was outside the Hennepin Healthcare clinic in Brooklyn Park on Tuesday to demonstrate its capabilities. The van offers free Narcan, the drug capable of reversing an opioid overdose. In addition, the van offers needle exchanges and testing services to prevent the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Orne says the van often goes to homeless encampments and other strategic places to offer its services. He says the nonprofit has had success helping people with recovery because it has staff who can empathize.
“I think one of the things that makes our program different is a lot of our staff have lived experience with the issues facing people who are using drugs,” said Orne. “As a person in recovery myself, I have overdosed in the past. Narcan saved my life. I just want to be out there offering the services to folks that I wished I had when I was using drugs.”
Orne says some people don’t even realize they’re taking fentanyl, thinking it’s OxyContin or something else. He says opioids have affected people from all neighborhoods and all walks of life.
“We’re seeing overdoses spiking all across Minnesota, especially in the Twin Cities, across many different neighborhoods, there’s not a particular kind of person that’s doing drugs,” said Orne.
While based in Minneapolis, The Aliveness Project offers services all across the state. Founded in 1985 during the AIDS crisis, the nonprofit also offers a food shelf, case management and a harm reduction program.
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